How can we identify a case of depression

Depression is an illness in which the person suffers a series of symptoms that cause a deep psychological suffering. The most typical symptoms are having a very low mood, not wanting to do anything, not enjoying the things that usually make us enjoy, difficulty sleeping or anxiety. It needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent the symptoms from worsening and becoming dangerous situations, such as the risk of suicide.

How can we “realize” that we may be suffering from depression?

Depressions usually do not start suddenly, but progressively (with some exceptions). This sometimes makes it difficult for the person to notice the symptoms I explained before. In any case, there comes a time when these symptoms prevent you from going about your daily life in a normal way. This would be the most common way in which people detect that they have depression.

Is it normal to feel sad and when is it considered to “drift” into depression?

Feeling sad is indeed normal. Sadness is an emotion and lasts a few hours or a day. On the other hand, depression is an illness, one of the symptoms of which is sadness, but very intense. It also has other symptoms as I mentioned before. Feeling sad you can live a normal life, but not with depression. This would be a clear way to distinguish them.

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How to distinguish it from other disorders?

To distinguish it from other disorders would imply the intervention of a psychiatrist, since it can sometimes be something really complex. It is usually necessary to distinguish it, for example, from other mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or anxiety disorders.

Bipolar disorder, for example, combines phases of depression with other phases of euphoria, hyperactivity, spending a lot of money, talking a lot… Anxiety disorders are sometimes difficult to distinguish from depressions because they can share many symptoms. In these, anxiety symptoms predominate over mood problems. But as I said, it is more the task of the psychiatrist than anything else.

What factors can influence depression?

It is believed that there are 3 variables that influence: a biological variable (genetics), which depends on the genetics that each person has from the moment of birth. An environmental variable, which refers to the things that happen to that person and that can affect his or her mood. And a more psychological variable that refers to the person’s way of being and how he/she copes with stress.

What types of depression are there?

Anxious depression

It is a depression in which what makes you suffer the most is the high level of anxiety you have. You feel very anxious and unusually worried about things that may happen or about losing control.

Endogenous or melancholic depression

This is a severe depression in which you don’t seem to react to things that used to give you pleasure. You may feel that everything is going very slowly, that you find it hard to think in a fluid way.

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It is common that:

  • You wake up earlier than usual
  • Your mood is worse in the morning than at night.
  • Have significant changes in appetite
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Moments of agitation
  • Extreme lack of energy

Atypical depression

In this depression there are some symptoms opposite to those of the rest of depressions:

  • You maintain the capacity to rejoice momentarily at happy events.
  • You have more appetite than usual
  • There is an excessive need to sleep.

There is usually great sensitivity to being rejected or a feeling of heaviness in the arms or legs.

Psychotic depression

This is a very serious depression. It is similar to melancholic depression, but it also has “paranoias”, which for the person who suffers from it are totally real although for the rest of the people it is evident that they are not. These “paranoias” are usually of catastrophic themes (believing to be ruined, seriously ill…).

Catatonic depression

Although it is one of the most serious types of depression, it is very rare to suffer from catatonic depression nowadays. You can be practically motionless, repeating the words you are told or hear, adopting strange postures… It usually requires special treatments such as C.E.T.

Postpartum depression

This is the depression that manifests itself during pregnancy or in the weeks following childbirth (known as postpartum depression). It generates a special suffering because you find yourself depressed at a time when everyone, starting with yourself, expects to feel great happiness. Many of the worries are related to the care or health of the baby.

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Seasonal depression

This is depression related to changes in the seasons and less exposure to sunlight. It is characteristic of the pattern of depression that worsens at the beginning of autumn, although there are people who may notice the variation at other times of the year. It is usual for each person to notice the changes at the same time of the year.

Mixed depression

Although this condition is not yet fully understood, it is known to be a disease very close to bipolar disorder, although instead of episodes of mania, what are called mixed episodes occur.

In a mixed episode, on the one hand you feel like crying, you don’t want to do things, you don’t enjoy anything…and on the other hand you can feel your thoughts very accelerated, you feel very irritable and in a very bad mood.

It is not uncommon to see episodes of this type, for example, in people who have a bipolar disorder and have not been diagnosed. When they start a depression, they are given antidepressants and instead of getting better they can get worse and have these kinds of symptoms. This is one of the fundamental reasons why I recommend that you see a psychiatrist who is an expert in depression: differentiating a “normal” depression from a bipolar depression is very difficult and is a fundamental aspect because of how different the treatments are.